Their findings, which appear in the journal Physical Review of Letters, are counter to common perceptions that flight stability can be achieved only through a relatively even distribution of weight—and may offer new design principles for hovering aircraft.
As the Wright brothers demonstrated 100 years ago, the key challenge of flight is maintaining balance. Yet, while insects took to the air 400 million years earlier, their flight stability remains a mystery because of the complex aerodynamics of their flapping wings.
The NYU researchers approached this question by creating experimental conditions needed to achieve stable hovering in mechanical flyers. To do so, they created a range of pyramid-shaped “bugs” constructed from paper that hover when placed in an oscillating column of air, mimicking the effect of flapping wings. They captured the experiment with high-speed videos in order to analyze the nature of the airflow around the bugs.
To gauge which types of structures best maintained their balance, the researchers created paper bugs with various centers of mass. Top-heavy bugs were made by fixing a weight above the pyramid, and low center-of-mass bugs bore this weight below.
Surprisingly, their results showed that the top-heavy bugs hovered stably while those with a lower center of mass could not maintain their balance.
The team showed that when the top-heavy bug tilts, the swirls of air ejected from the far side of the body automatically adjust to keep it upright.
“It works somewhat like balancing a broomstick in your hand,” explained Jun Zhang, a Professor at the Courant Institute and one of the study’s co-authors. “If it begins to fall to one side, you need to apply a force in this same direction to keep it upright.”
For bugs, it is aerodynamical forces that provide this stability.
The lessons learned from these studies could be put to use in designing stable and maneuverable flapping-wing robots.
The study’s other co-authors were postdoctoral researchers Bin Liu, who led the first round experiments, and Leif Ristroph, who came up with the stability theory with Courant Professor Stephen Childress. Another co-author, Annie Weathers, now studies mechanics at the University of Texas, Austin. She took some measurements during her last semester as an undergraduate at NYU.
The study was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.
James Devitt | Newswise Science News
Tracing aromatic molecules in the early universe
23.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside
New study maps space dust in 3-D
23.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
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Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
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